Oftentimes, thoughts can go all over the place. They can go so many places you may have no idea how the images in your head even got there. Images of pain and violence, or those of your worst fears. And every time your thoughts get going, you begin to dread having to see those things again in your mind. You’re not the kind of person who thinks those things! Can’t they just leave you alone…?
Do you know what I’m talking about? Maybe it happens for you after a scary movie, when your mind wanders back to the things that haunted you. Or maybe the phrase: “What has been seen, cannot be unseen” calls what I’m talking about to mind.
All in all, it’s when you don’t want to think a certain thought.
The thing is, if you are afraid of your own thoughts, then it causes even more disturbance in your mind. You might actively try to think other thoughts on top of the ones that you don’t want to think, and you have to constantly expend energy doing this, because if you don’t….
But no matter how much you try, your thoughts won’t calm down. Because you’re constantly adding more thoughts, replacing what you’re afraid of with turmoil. Yeah, you might avoid it for a while, but…
Flowing Towards Peace
So if thinking about something else doesn’t help, what does?
Well you know how when you’re thinking the thoughts you like, thoughts flow from one to the next? Same with the thoughts you don’t like, IF you leave them alone.
That is, as intimidating as it may sound, you must allow yourself to think the thoughts that appear in your head. Allow them to be there for as long as they would be if you weren’t afraid of them. Just stand strong and take it.
You might be afraid that this means you’ll think them over and over again forever, or that your actions will be determined by your thoughts, but no. If your action is to stand strong no matter what thought rolls into your mind, those thoughts will keep moving. Not all thought is a precursor to action. Are you thinking these things because you’re trying to figure out what to do? No? Then think them. Don’t run from them, don’t try to rush them forward. Just think them. Eventually the chaos will pass.
(Or, do you think that you ARE going to act on the thoughts? Really? Do you seriously think you’ll choose to do such freaky things? Own your own power of choice. Be realistic. You are not at the mercy of a random flow of fear-inducing thoughts.)
You might be thinking now, “Eh, it sounds a whole lot easier just to constantly avoid thinking about thoughts I fear, than to rush headlong into them.” But one thing to keep in mind that if any side of you holds courage as an ideal, they may test you by flooding your mind with these thoughts, no matter how much you dislike them. They may back off if you fail the test, but you can bet they’ll try again later.
No, if you want to have peace in your mind, you need to allow yourself to think through all the thoughts that appear there. Maybe then you’ll be able to see where the thoughts are coming from, and if something in you is trying to scare you. The key is to not back down, even if the thoughts make you uncomfortable. Do not hide behind other thoughts. Face the thoughts you fear, and find what’s on the other side of them. No thought, at least to me, is worth surrendering your peace for.
Let the hundred chattering voices and movie screens be. Sometimes they want to see you get scared. Just stand, unaffected, aware that your peace is being threatened.
So, say you’re in a mess of thoughts – how do you know what the right direction is? Here’s an easy test: You’re going the right way if you feel more and more peace, NOT if you think less and less of certain thoughts.
I hope that helps whenever you next find yourself being attacked by your own thoughts, or even have a song stuck in your head. And remember, it’s just a thought! It’s not an order, or a precognition, or even reality. It’s just an image, or words, like you might read on the internet. The reality at such times is your fear, or whatever else you’re feeling. Stay strong. Don’t let the things in your head get to you. You’ll make it through, a-ok.
That all said, here’s one more clip from Courage the Cowardly Dog:
The things you do for love.
I saw that there have been a lot of people reading this post lately, so I wanted to share my added findings, even though there aren’t any blog posts about it yet.
Basically, I’ve found that it’s not enough to JUST endure your thoughts, because then your head is just filled with a bunch of stuff you don’t understand, and sometimes it DOESN’T go away. To work through this stage, you need to understand how thoughts work.
Basically, any images you see in your mind’s eye are a kind of statement from some side of yourself. Not every thought is expressed in words.
Furthermore, the reason why you can’t get away from your thoughts is because if you think “Not X”, you might see X in your mind’s eye, but maybe scribbled out, or maybe constantly returning to your mind. You see it because “Not X” still includes X. Maybe you’re not thinking it EXPLICITLY, however, so you might see X reappearing over and over again and you don’t know why. But that image is a clue to lead you to what your mind is REALLY trying to say – for instance, “Not X”.
I think about it like this now: all images, words, sounds, or whatever in your head are like a part of yourself trying to say something. It’s up to you to respond with your own thoughts and images, as if having a conversation in your mind, with whatever in you is speaking up, whether that side of you is speaking in fear or anger or whatever else. Work with yourself.
But the thing about calming your mind by not reacting impulsively to your thoughts still holds. It is way more productive to ask why an image in your mind is there than to try and do something about it immediately. As with most problems, you can see the symptom – but it’s when you get to the root of that symptom’s appearance that you can truly address the root cause, and thus, solve the problem.
Remember: thoughts can appear for many reasons – try to understand why they appear, and you can do something about it. You don’t have to be afraid of thoughts, and you have the capacity to address thoughts, whatever images or words they might contain.
The latest bit of information I have is about focus. In the last update, I mentioned how you will think about X even if you think ‘Not X’ – well, focus is how you can fundamentally change what you are thinking about on that underlying level. So what’s a way to change focus? Instead of trying to mess with your mental image, arbitrarily put your focus on something else. Like, look around and search for the color red in everything you see. Then a different color. Occupy your mind with different topics and point of focus until your flow of thoughts doesn’t keep diving into the disturbing images.
At the same time, remember that shifting focus does not address the reason for these thoughts appearing. The purpose of shifting focus is to give you breather room to some mental stability. To really solve the cause of the thoughts, you will need to use your awareness to figure out why these images are occurring. If it’s fear, you may want to deal with the fear head-on by examining why you’re afraid of what you are in-depth. Uncovering the truth about a fear and why it’s an issue for you usually helps immensely in relieving it.
How to Reduce Fear, Escape Anxiety, and End Panic is a great ebook and set of meditations by Mark Ivar Myhre for approaching Fear, whether it be fear of thoughts or any other kind. Nevermind the resources on anxiety and panic.
An article by the same guy, How To Stop Obsessive Thoughts, deals with another important aspect of this topic: getting back to your true feelings.
Fear Of Thinking - Fearofstuff.com entry on the fear of thinking, otherwise called Phrnemophobia.
What has been Seen Cannot Be Unseen - Some information from Knowyourmeme.com about the meme.